emerging adulthood, development, marriage, marital paradigm theory, marital horizon theory


This chapter overviews marriage formation patterns and beliefs about marriage during emerging adulthood. Although marriage is no longer a transition occurring during emerging adulthood for many individuals, this chapter describes how marriage still has an important impact on emerging adult development and trajectories. The authors first note the major international demographic shifts in marriage that have occurred among emerging adults over the past several decades. They then highlight how research findings on beliefs about marriage have offered evidence that how emerging adults perceive their current or future marital transitions is strongly associated with other decisions during emerging adulthood. The chapter overviews major theoretical advancements in this area including marital paradigm theory and marital horizon theory. Research is summarized focusing on the age of marriage to highlight and discuss how marriage during emerging adulthood may impact well-being. Suggestions are provided for future directions of research in this area of scholarship.

Original Publication Citation

Willoughby, B. J. & Carroll, J. S.(2016). On the Horizon: Marriage Timing, Beliefs, and Consequences in Emerging Adulthood. In J. Arnett (Ed.). The Oxford Handbook of Emerging Adulthood. Oxford University Press, pp. 280-295. [Equal Authors]

Document Type

Book Chapter

Publication Date



Oxford University Press




Family, Home, and Social Sciences


Family Life

University Standing at Time of Publication

Full Professor